Dyer, Christopher (Charles) 1944-
DYER, Christopher (Charles) 1944-
PERSONAL: Born December 24, 1944; in Stratford-upon-Avon, England; son of Charles James and Doris Mary Dyer; married Jenifer Ann Dent, 1967; children: one son, one daughter. Education: University of Birmingham, B.A., Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Mark Fitch House, Room 25, University of Leicester, University Rd., Leicester LE1 7RH, England. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, assistant lecturer in history, 1967-70; University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, senior lecturer and reader, 1970-90, professor of medieval social history, 1990-2001; Oxford University, Oxford England, Ford Lecturer in Medieval History, 2000-01; University of Leicester, Leicester, England, professor of regional and local history, director of the Centre for English Local History, 2001—.
MEMBER: Society for Medieval Archaeology (president, 1998—), Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.
(With others) The Role of School Libraries in Education, 1970.
Warwickshire Farming 1349-c. 1520: Preparations forAgricultural Revolution ("Dugdale Society Occasional Papers" series, number 27), Dugdale Society (Oxford, England), 1981.
(Editor, with Michael Aston and David Austin) TheRural Settlements of Medieval England: Studies Dedicated to Maurice Beresford and John Hurst, Blackwell (Cambridge, MA), 1989.
Hanbury: Settlement and Society in a Woodland Landscape ("Occasional Papers" fourth series, number 4), Leicester University Press (Leicester, England), 1991.
Everyday Life in Medieval England, Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, OH), 1994.
(With Carenza Lewis and Patrick Mitchell-Fox) Village, Hamlet, and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England, Manchester University Press/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Bromsrove: A Small Town in Worcestershire in theMiddle Ages ("Occasional Publications" series, number 9), Worcestershire Historical Society (Worcester, England), 2000.
(With Jessica Kingsley) Teaching Pupils with Severe and Complex Diffıculties: Back to First Principles, 2001.
Contributor to works by others, including The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, Volume 1, edited by D. Palliser, Cambridge University Press, 2000; The Problem of Labour in Fourteenth-Century England, edited by P. J. P. Goldberg and W. M. Ormrod, Woodbridge & York, 2000; Compton Verney: A History of the House and Its Owners, edited by R. Bearman, 2000; and Living Economic and Social History, edited by P. Hudson, 2001. Contributor of reviews and articles to periodicals, including History Today, English Historical Review, Canadian Journal of History, Urban History, Staffordshire Studies, Nottingham Medieval Studies, and Historical Research.
SIDELIGHTS: Professor of British regional and local history Christopher Dyer's research interests have included economic and social history, particularly of the medieval period, including the history of towns, commerce, and agriculture. An expert on medieval studies and a frequent reviewer of books in journals, Dyer has also written papers, textbooks, and historical studies, including his Everyday Life in Medieval England, consisting of fifteen essays divided into four sections that focus on settlement, standards of living, social relations, and the market. His time frame is the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, with one section touching on the towns and cottages of the eleventh century. Three chapters deal with diet, and another with housing, and others study how consumer demands were met by commerce. Dyer contends that peasants had better housing than has been thought, that many of the manual laborers ate well, and that the majority of all people were part of the market society.
James Masschaele wrote in the Historian that "while the arguments on these fronts continue to be tested and refined, all serious students of the period share Dyer's conviction that medieval England had a far more vibrant material culture than the one conveyed by the hoary traditions of popular history."
In History Today, Daniel Snowman reviewed Dyer's earlier Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England, c. 1200-1520 and his later Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain, 850-1520, significant because it is written for a broad readership. Snowman wrote that "one of the charming things about Christopher Dyer is that many of his articles and all his major books . . . have 'life' or 'living' in their titles. Thus, Dyer writes about getting a living, about standards of living and everyday life, about what people in medieval England ate, what they did with their work and leisure time, and how peasants emerged from serfdom to achieve a degree of independence. He is not a subscriber to the old-fashioned 'Merrie England' school of medievalists and is not comfortable with sweeping generalizations." Snowman called Dyer's writing "exhaustively documented and impeccably balanced."
Snowman noted that Dyer's writings have been translated into many languages and that it was with Standards of Living in the Middle Ages "that Dyer announced himself as an important new historical voice." The book that is used as a textbook in America lists such topics as aristocratic incomes, the aristocracy as consumers, peasant living standards, and peasants as consumers. Snowman said that the last "is a topic which reveals the central thrust of a great deal of Dyer's research. 'All too often,' he complains in a telling phrase, 'agriculture is seen as a matter of cultivation and productivity, and the end products of bread, porridge, ale, and fodder are forgotten.'" Snowman commented that "there is plenty of food and drink in Standards of Living," which he described as "something of a classic in its field, staking out territory that Dyer has occupied and expanded ever since."
Snowman wrote that "the broad themes of Making a Living are those you would expect: rapid urbanization in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, social crisis around the period of the Black Death followed by economic growth. But, as in so much of Dyer's writing, the spotlight falls not on the great events, places, institutions, or magnates. Rather, he concentrates on the experience of individual people, especially perhaps the peasants, and on life in small towns. The two were inextricably linked." The book is the first major survey of economic development in medieval Britain since M. M. Postan's The Medieval Economy and Society, published in 1972.
Nigel Saul wrote in History Today that "Dyer's is a very different book from Postan's of thirty years ago. Postan wrote as an economist: as someone whose training was in the social sciences. Dyer writes as an historian. He teaches in a history department, and his approach is document-based and empirical. Throughout, he is content to let the evidence set the agenda. He never goes further than the evidence will allow."
John Langdon noted in a review for History Online that Making a Living in the Middle Ages is one of the first two books in the Yale University Press series "The New Economic History of Britain." Langdon commented that "one of the values" of the series "is to rescue these past worlds from the excesses of popular imagination and to provide a clearly interested lay population with both the benefits of the current state of affairs in terms of research, but also to put a more representative and richly textured picture of the human condition in Britain in times past." Langdon observed that Dyer's volume "succeeds admirably. From the start, the erudition of the book is extremely impressive. As an expert in English medieval local history, Professor Dyer has an unparalleled command of the minutiae of his subject, and he puts together this wealth of material in a very smooth and well-organized fashion."
History's Robert L. Woods, Jr. noted Dyer's contributions to the debate on medieval Britain and wrote that he "undertakes to synthesize, contribute to, and make accessible that scholarship. He succeeds with flair, intelligence, and brilliance. Not only is Making a Living in the Middle Ages satisfying, but it is written with clarity, direction, and humanity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 1982, Edwin B. Dewindt, review of Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society: The Estates of the Bishopric of Worcester, 680-1540, pp. 1068-1069; June, 1991, Anne Dewindt, review of Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages: Social Change in England, c. 1200-1520, pp. 854-855; February, 1996, Norman J. G. Pounds, review of Everyday Life in Medieval England, pp. 167-168.
Catholic Historical Review, January, 1982, J. A. Raftis, review of Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society, pp. 116-117.
Choice, September, 2002, D. Mitch, review of Making a Living in the Middle Ages: The People of Britain, 850-1520, p. 152.
Economic History Review, August, 1990, R. W. Hoyle, review of The Rural Settlements of Medieval England: Studies Dedicated to Maurice Beresford and John Hurst, pp. 484-485; February, 1992, P. J. P. Goldberg, review of Hanbury: Settlement and Society in a Woodland Landscape, p. 189; November, 1997, Kathleen Troup, review of Village, Hamlet, and Field: Changing Medieval Settlements in Central England, pp. 833-834.
English Historical Review, January, 1982, Barbara F. Harvey, review of Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society, pp. 126-127; October, 1991, Edmund King, review of The Rural Settlements of Medieval England, pp. 942-944; July, 1992, T. H. Lloyd, review of Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, p. 703.
Historian, fall, 1996, James Masschaele, review of Everyday Life in Medieval England, pp. 185-186.
History, February, 1991, Peter Robinson, review of The Rural Settlements of Medieval England, p. 113; summer, 2002, Robert L. Woods, Jr., review of Making a Living in the Middle Ages, p. 154.
History Today, June, 1995, Stephen Rigby, review of Everyday Life in Medieval England, p. 46; May, 2002, Daniel Snowman, reviews of Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages and Making a Living in the Middle Ages, p. 28; November, 2002, Nigel Saul, review of Making a Living in the Middle Ages, p. 66.
Journal of Economic History, June, 1995, Jeanne Schock, review of Everyday Life in Medieval England, pp. 414-415.
Journal of Historical Geography, October, 1990, Paul Glennie, review of The Rural Settlements of Medieval England, pp. 464-465; January, 1999, Christopher C. Taylor, review of Village, Hamlet, and Field, pp. 108-109.
Renaissance and Reformation, summer, 1993, Carola M. Small, review of Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, pp. 92-95.
Speculum, July, 1992, Barbara A. Hanawalt, review of Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, pp. 659-660.
Times Literary Supplement, April 10, 1981, J. Z. Titow, review of Lords and Peasants in a Changing Society, p. 410; November 1, 2002, John Hatcher, review of Making a Living in the Middle Ages, p. 33.
EH.net (Economic Hisotry Services),http://www.eh.net/ (September, 2002), James Masschaele, review of Making a Living in the Middle Ages.
History Online,http://www.history.ac.uk/ (October, 2002), John Langdon, review of Making a Living in the Middle Ages.
University of Leicester Web site,http://www.le.ac.uk/ (February 13, 2004), Christopher Dyer biography.*